4 - 5
FATMAP difficulty grade
This moderate ski tour has beautiful views and takes you through the valley between two gorgeous classic Kananaskis mountains - Mount Birdwood and Mount Smuts.
The trail starts by winding through forest and opens up into an amphitheatre-like valley.
It is a continuous but gentle ascent all the way to the Mount Birdwood, Smutwood Col which has lovely views of the Spray range. To begin this tour you park on the side of the road about 3 kms past the Mount Shark turnoff.
It is the same parking you use for skiing Tryst Chutes and the Commonwealth loop.
This is a popular start area and there are usually other cars parked on the road. You begin the tour in the trees but it opens up to a large, open area with a few big avalanche runout zones.
You will want to cross swiftly and one at a time across these.
To ascend to the Col between Mount Smuts and Mount Birdwood you should stay in the trees to mitigate exposure to avalanche terrain.
Often the Col is very wind swept and you will have to switch to bootpacking for 10-20 meters.
To get to the Mount Smutwood/Mount Birdwood Col you have to side cut a fairly low angle slope.
You will want to make sure stability is good though to do this.
If you end at the Mount Birdwood/Mount Smuts Col you will still have had a great day but the further Col affords you views of Sir Douglas, Mount Burstall and some other lovely peaks in the area.
The descent basically follows the ascent route unless you are confident that avalanche hazard is low and choose to ski the more open slopes below Mount Birdwood. This is a great day out to a beautiful col!